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At the Threshold of Mystery: Poetic Encounters with Other(ness)


Ewa Borkowska

The book At the Threshold of Mystery: Poetic Encounters with Other(ness) addresses the problem of literary dialogue as it appears in the philosophical, poetic and aesthetic discourses in the last two centuries. Central to the dialogue with Other(ness) is a background discussion of the idea of friendship as an encounter with another individual, with another man, with God (or gods) and also with another culture, the issues present in Emmanuel Levinas’s ethical philosophy. Merleau-Ponty’s concept of intersubjectivity becomes a crucial point in the creative construction of the philosophy of dialogue, whose ideological antecedents date back to the times of Plato. At the border of language, or at the threshold of mystery, there crowds what is «metaphysically arcane» or immediate, that which signals «the other», the «out there». The central idea which this book examines is how to reconcile the hermetically sealed historical past with modern times in order to inaugurate the genuine philosophy of dialogue. It is the author’s strong belief that by interrupting totality, the poetic work, which often turns into the prophetic signature or voice, «the trace of other(ness)», seems to give testimony to the primordial experience so essential for the birth of poetry. The poetic examples of the mysterious encounters with Other(ness) are selected, each in its most idiosyncratic way, from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Celan, Seamus Heaney, and two Polish poets, Zbigniew Herbert and Adam Zagajewski (but also from Walter Pater’s aesthetic epiphanies).
Contents: Philosophical/poetic dialogue with Other(ness) – The Other – Poetic epiphanies – «Language of stone» – Silence – Emigration – Memory and recollection – Home and homelessness – Gestures of hospitality in poetic dialogues – Intersubjectivity – Metaphysical desire – Ethical metaphysics.